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House OKs Arms Spending Bill Despite GOP Protests

November 20, 1987|JOHN M. BRODER | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Senate, on an 86-9 vote, gave final congressional approval to a $296-billion compromise defense spending authorization package and sent the measure to President Reagan, despite Republican objections to key arms control provisions.

The House had voted 264 to 158 Wednesday night to approve the measure, which covers Pentagon spending for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and represents a $16-billion reduction from what Reagan requested. The bill includes substantial cuts in several major programs, including the Strategic Defense Initiative, the MX missile and the B-1B bomber.

"This chamber was in gridlock with the House and with itself on some issues," said Virginia Sen. John W. Warner, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the House-Senate conference committee that wrote the final bill. "It faced a certain veto because of some of the arms control language. Given those constraints and given those realities, we did our best."

Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the conference panel, said: "No doubt some of these provisions will not be popular in the White House. I hope and expect the President will sign this bill, but we have no guarantees."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 22, 1987 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 6 Foreign Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
A headline on Page 1 of Friday's Times stated incorrectly that the House had given final congressional approval to the defense spending authorization bill. Final passage actually was in the Senate.

The compromise bill--negotiated in part by National Security Adviser Frank C. Carlucci, who is soon to become defense secretary--eased some Administration concerns on arms control issues. Reagan is expected to sign the legislation to avoid a veto override fight next month, while he meets with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in Washington.

Although the bill authorizes the Defense Department to spend $296 billion in the current fiscal year, actual appropriations probably will be lower as a result of the White House-Congress budget negotiations now under way. The final figure is expected to be between $290 billion and $293 billion.

The bill also, for the first time, authorizes spending for a second fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, 1988. However, because of disagreements between the House and Senate on controversial weapons programs, only about two-thirds of the 1989 budget items were decided.

Decline in Real Terms

The measure marks the third consecutive year in which Pentagon spending has declined in real, inflation-adjusted terms. The reductions follow a five-year upsurge of Reagan Administration military spending designed to overcome what the President called the "decade of neglect" of the 1970s, when relatively low defense spending delayed new weapons systems and, he asserted, damaged the military's ability to respond quickly to a crisis.

The current bill's most contentious provisions deal with arms control, as negotiators tried to find middle ground between congressional liberals, who wanted the Administration to adhere strictly to two nuclear arms treaties, and Reagan, who threatened to veto the entire measure if it restricted his ability to develop SDI--the space-based missile defense system commonly called "Star Wars."

The 1,700-page, 17 1/2-pound document limits testing SDI components for the next year without binding the President to the terms of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. That provision left both liberals and conservatives in the Senate unhappy.

"The rapid deployment of this system is the best hope for our country to deter Soviet nuclear blackmail in the near term," said Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), a hard-line conservative.

'Unilateral Disarmament'

"While the Soviets are violating the key provisions of the ABM treaty, the Congress is de facto binding the President to an excessively restrictive interpretation of the treaty," he said. "This decision is unilateral disarmament in which international law is being misinterpreted and used as a fig leaf for appeasement of Russia."

Liberal Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said that the bill allows too much spending for strategic systems such as SDI and too little for modernizing U.S. conventional forces. He said that limitations on "Star Wars" testing are "a classic legitimate exercise of the congressional power of the purse."

Levin defended the arms control provisions, saying, "Nothing in this report will reduce the President's flexibility or his leverage in the upcoming summit or strategic arms reduction talks" with the Soviet Union.

The bill provides $3.9 billion for research on the missile defense system, $1.8 billion less than Reagan requested.

Also in the defense bill is money for two aircraft carriers, a 3% pay raise for the 2.1 million uniformed military personnel, a dozen MX missiles, a new Trident ballistic missile submarine and seed money for a new class of nuclear attack submarine, the Seawolf. The bill increased Reagan's request for several Army programs--the Apache and Blackhawk helicopters and the Abrams tank.

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